The Pope John Paul II girls soccer team is looking for a third consecutive berth in a state championship game. Hannan has been playing like it can get there for the first time.
On Tuesday, though, the Jaguars proved again that they are the team to beat in Division IV, District 5.
Pope John Paul II dispatched district rival Hannan 4-2 on Tuesday evening at Lester Latino Field in Slidell.
Hannan, currently the second-ranked team in the LHSAA Division IV power rankings, played evenly with the third-ranked Jaguars for about 30 minutes.
But then the PJP II offensive began clicking. And as it often does, it started with junior Marlena Cutura, a verbal commitment to LSU.
In the 30th minute, Cutura found a ball in free space along the right side. She outran two defenders to the ball and fired a looping shot that found the center of the net. That play gave the Jaguars decided momentum.
Two minutes later, Cutura sent a ball from the far left side of the field toward the Hannan net. Her pass was met by Aubrie Spring, who punched it in for a 2-0 PJP lead.
Then in the 37th minute, Cutura knocked a left-footed shot into the goal from about 20 yards out to make the score 3-0.
Down by a hat trick, Hannan began an all-out offensive assault to start the second half, in hopes of pulling closer. They did in the 48th minute when a ball trickled behind a line of defenders into the goal. The Hawks closed to 3-2 in the 52nd minute when Elizabeth Frank bumped a pass from Estanfia Harvey into net.
Cutura got the Jaguars offense back in gear. Her penalty kick from 30 yards out reached the back corner of the Hannan goal for a 4-2 lead.
Defense was key for Pope John Paul II (12-2-1, 3-0.) Hannan fell to 15-3-1, 1-1.
“It was my first time playing center back, and it’s really tricky to defend against something like that (Hannan attack,)” PJP senior Sydney Gressaffa said. “It was great to get a big win against a team in district.”
PJP II coach J.B. Mahoney said the same thing to both teams during a postgame prayer. He said he wouldn’t be surprised if the teams meet again in the Division IV playoffs, and even the state championship.
“Good win; and that’s a great team,” Mahoney said.
“I hope we’re not in the same bracket as them in the playoffs.”
Pope John Paul II 4, Hannan 3: Kade Dixon rolled around the left side of the Hannan box in the 76th minute and sent a shot into the Hawks’ net to clinch a Division IV, District 5 match at Pope John Paul II.
Hannan (4-8, 0-2) struck first in the 35th minute when Payton Hudson scored.
PJP II answered with only seconds remaining in the first half when Tyler Blakeman broke up the right sideline and tied the score at 1-1 going into halftime.
The Jaguars’ Andrew Arata put his team ahead in the 51st minute when he knocked a shot through the center of the defense into goal. Hannan’s Avery Ferrara evened the score at 2 on a penalty kick in the 57th minute.
Another penalty kick, this one by PJP’s Luka Cutura in the 62nd minute, broke the tie. But an indirect penalty kick in the 72nd minute by Ferrara tied it at 3.
That set up Dixon’s winning shot, which moved Pope John Paul II to 9-10, 2-1 in district play.